The noblest goal of journalism is to speak truth to power and Turkish photographer Çağdaş Erdoğan’s first book Control does this to a depth not often achieved in media circles. Erdoğan was taken into custody at the beginning of September 2017 in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul for allegedly taking a photograph of Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT).
Officially arrested on 13 September, he now faces charges of membership to a terrorist organisation. Control is an extraordinary guide to some very dark and troubling realities, both personal and political. Photographed in the marginalised communities of Istanbul, including Gazi (a Kurdish area between 2015 and 2017), its depiction of dog fights, sex parties and armed political activists offers no comforting stereotypes of the daily struggle faced by the inhabitants of these neighbourhoods.
In an interview published shortly before his arrest, the photographer urged the importance of freedom of speech and the need for honest photographs of the present-day situation in Turkey. “Secularism has been suppressed to the point where it is almost invisible,” says Erdoğan. “I wanted to find a way to scrutinise Turkish society’s relationship with reality.”
Irish freelance journalist and Middle East war corresspondent Norma Costello has spent most of this year covering the situation in Turkey following the failed coup in July 2016. Since then, the government has put the country under a state of emergency and restricted the work of journalists, photographers and the media.
“The targeting of journalists in Turkey is nothing new. But sadly, in the Internet age, the response by journalists globally has been muted, ” Costello tells Murmur. “In my experience, a lot of people simply don’t realise the extent of the purges and that is mainly due to the State’s effective media blackout”.
Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would arm the Kurds – an ethnic minority whose territory spreads across Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. The Kurds have done an incredible job in these regions pushing back against Daesh, the increasingly unpopular religious zealots. But Turkey has a venomous relationship with the Kurds and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called them terrorists. Worse, there’s good evidence that Turkey is helping, or at least turning a blind eye to, Islamic State activity on its border.
“Those of us who tried to cover the war in the Kurdish regions were arrested, detained, beaten, humiliated and charged with terror offenses,” says Costello. “I’m lucky, I was simply refused entry. But, for my colleagues, the situation is getting more and more hopeless. European politicians, keen to maintain voting bases, are handing the AKP a carte blanche to commit human rights abuses in exchange for “controlling” the refugee crises”.
Keep up to date with all the latest news about Çağdaş Erdoğan and other stories at the 140journos agency website.
All spreads from the book Control by Cağdaş Erdoğan, courtesy Akina Books.
Words: Edwin Bowe and Bryan Meade.